Lee needed some concentrated time to work on editing some projects that he needs to get done, so on Saturday I volunteered at the Visitors Center here in town. I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn more about the area and they are very short staffed there so I really just wanted to help them out. The woman who runs the visitors center, Jan, has lived here for 25 years and knows the region inside and out. Not only did I learn a lot of new things about what the locals do, but it was also fun helping the folks who came into the center. By 2pm I was pooped out though. This past week we changed our days off from Sunday/Monday to Saturday/Sunday and have just worked 14 days with only 1 day off. I found myself feeling really tired and spent the rest of the day just relaxing. The next morning I actually slept in until 10am! I guess I really did need the rest. It was a very windy day and it was raining in Valdez so Lee and I changed our plan and decided to go to Chitina instead. I didn’t have high expectations of Chitina based on other blogs I had read, but I was pleased to see a waterfall was along the route, and you know I love my waterfalls, so off we went.
We headed out and the weather did get a little better as we entered Edgerton highway, plus the road itself was in really good shape. We were tooling along and suddenly we saw a weird animal on the side of the road. Lee stopped and I got out because I thought they were musk oxen, but instead we discovered they were Tibetan Yaks!!
The Circle F Ranch they were being raised on was open for business and since we were curious we stopped in. It turns out that the owners were professional hunting guides for many years, and have been involved in the Alaskan Conservancy (even visiting the White House several times). When they had grandchildren they decided to settle in a little bit (although they still act as guides part-time) and they did a lot of research on what to raise. They decided on Tibetan Yak because they are pretty mellow animals, and have naturally adapted to a colder climate, and only eat 1% of their body weight a day versus a cow which eats 3% a day. The meat is supposed to be leaner than beef and unlike a cow you can shear them for fiber. The “wool” is crazy soft (more than cashmere) and they had some beautiful sweaters and yarn for sale. The prices though were crazy high at over $300 for a sweater, still I could see the appeal. We really enjoyed our time talking to them, but then headed back down the road towards Liberty Falls.
Not too far down the road we saw the sign for Liberty Falls. This is an interesting little state recreation area because it is almost all falls. There is a very small parking lot, some really beautiful tent sites, and three spaces that can fit truck campers, or very small trailers. If you have a bigger rig there is one place to park up on the road, but if you are in your car you can go down and park inside. The day use fee for over 30 minutes is $5 (it’s honor system and we paid), but you could also jump out and see the falls and then get right back in your vehicle, because the falls are right there!! Really, really cool rock formations surround the falls and we spent quite a bit of time walking the stream and taking a myriad of pictures. I couldn’t believe no one local had mentioned this place, because I thought it was terrific, but I guess that is what happens when you have this much natural beauty around you. Needless to say I took a ton of pictures and here are a few of my favorites.
The tents sites were really great, running all along the stream and if we were tent campers I would definitely recommend staying here. It was beautiful and peaceful and the sound of rushing water totally drowned out the road noise or that of any other people.
It’s a good thing the falls were such a hit because Chitina, as expected, was not so great. Chitina is a town that lies on the Copper River and is known for its great salmon fishing. It is also a rough fisherman’s town with a couple of bars, lots of RV’s parked down by the river, and it’s really windy. The river is full of silt in this section and is an ugly brown color and that coupled with the wind made it not a great place to hang out. They do have fishwheels there, which is a huge draw, but the day we went none were in use. Fishwheels are used by the locals for subsistence fishing, but generally they are placed on private property and you need permission to get anywhere close to them. The best part of the visit was the eagle I saw on the sandbar. Where there are fish there are eagles, and this one stayed in place a long time, probably because of the extreme wind.
We went a little farther down, but then turned around and headed back and luckily caught site of a moose right next to the ranger station in town. Lee got this fantastic pic!! That was a nice cap to what seemed like it was going to be an average day, but turned out to have some special moments.
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